Enter: Toronto based Tess Parks and the now Berlin residing Anton Newbombe’s new collaboration, the low key drone I Declare Nothing.
Enter: Toronto based Tess Parks and the now Berlin residing Anton Newbombe’s new collaboration, the low key drone I Declare Nothing.
Our weekly two hour show on SIRIUS/XMU, channel 35, can now be heard twice, every Friday – Noon EST with an encore broadcast at Midnight EST.
SIRIUS 402: Jean Michel Bernard – Générique Stephane ++ Sun Ra – We’re Living In The Space Age ++ Honeyboy Martin & The Voices – Dreader Than Dread ++ Johnny & The Attractions – I’m Moving On ++ Andersons All Stars – Intensified Girls ++ King Sporty – DJ Special ++ Freddie Mackay – When I’m Gray ++ Hopeton Lewis – Sound And Pressure ++ The Upsetters – Popcorn ++ Willie Williams – Armageddon Time ++ Sister Nancy – Bam Bam ++ Nora Dean – Angie La La ++ The Upsetters – Taste Of Killing ++ The Skatalites – Herb Man Dub ++ Lloyd & Glen – That Girl ++ The Jamaicans – Ba Ba Boom ++ Hopeton Lewis – Let Me Come On Home ++ Byron Lee – Hot Reggae ++ Ernest Ranglin – Below The Bassline ++ Errol Dunkley – The Scorcher ++ Los Holy’s – Cissy Strut ++ Slim Smith – Hip Hug ++ The Reggae Boys – Selassie ++ Dave Barker – Funky Reggae ++ Johnny Clarke – Rebel Soldiering ++ Clarendonians – You Won’t See Me ++ Chains – The Cookies ++ No Easy Way Down – Dusty Springfield ++ Pleasant Valley Sunday – Carole King ++ You’ve Got a Friend (Live) – Donny Hathaway ++ Yours Until Tomorrow – Gene Pitney ++ Home Again – Carole King ++ Up On The Roof – The Drifters ++ Don’t Say Nothin’ (Bad About My Baby) – The Cookies ++ I Didn’t Have Any Summer Romance – Carole King ++ Crying In The Rain – The Everly Brothers ++ (You Make Me Feel Like) A Natural Woman – Aretha Franklin ++ So Far Away – Carole King ++ Take Good Care Of My Baby – Bobby Vee ++ The Loco-motion – Little Eva ++ Just Once In My Life – The Righteous Brothers ++ I Feel The Earth Move – Carole King ++ Matthew E. White – You’ve Got A Friend (Aquarium Drunkard Session) ++ Matthew E. White – No Easy Way Down (Aquarium Drunkard Session)
*Listen for free, online, with the SIRIUS three day trial — just submit an email address and they will send you a password.
Waves and oscillations transcending era and global in scope. A companion to last year’s Blue August Moon, the following medley slides right in before the Fall. All Gates Open.
Late August Light – A Mixtape (stream / download)
To quote George Clinton, ‘funk is its own reward’. And, really, there is nothing funkier (in every sense of the word) than New Orleans — specifically, The Meters. The above video document is a blessing — a 30 minute film capturing the band live at the Saenger Theatre on Canal Street, interspersed with individual interviews with the fellas. Look-Ka Py Py.
Yo La Tengo is unmistakable. Over the last 31 years, the Hoboken band has created a signature style, one that’s comprised of identifiable building blocks: Georgia Hubley’s hushed, husky voice and drumming, which balances a jazzy lilt and garage rock minimalism; James McNew’s insistently driving and melodic bass; Ira Kaplan’s cooing voice and rangy guitar work. Sometimes the songs are noisy and laden in feedback, sometimes they are feather light, but the trio always sounds like itself, even when performing selections from a seemingly bottomless repertoire of pop, soul, and rock & roll covers. Yo La Tengo always sounds like Yo La Tengo, but consistently finds new ways to manipulate foundational elements, to fold in new sweetness and magic.
The band’s latest, Stuff Like That There, was envisioned as a sequel to 1990’s Fakebook, and like that 25 year old album, it features a selection of covers alongside re-imaginings of familiar songs and new material. Recorded by Gene Holder, the trio is joined by former guitarist Dave Schramm on the new album, who adds gorgeous, electric guitar to a sparse framework of acoustic guitar, brushed drums, and upright bass – an instrument McNew had never played before, but took on as a challenge and homage to Allen Greller, whose double bass work appeared on Fakebook.
“It just seemed like something we wouldn’t do…that seemed really appealing. Like, why not?” McNew says of the idea of crafting a sequel to a former record. “It would be super weird and perverse in the way that we operate to do something like that.” “Yeah, I think there’s something crass about it,” laughs Kaplan. “We kind of thought, ‘Let’s be those guys. Let’s cash in.’”
Stuff Like That There does not sound like a lark. Songs by Darlene McCrea, The Cure, Hank Williams, Antietam, Great Plains, the Loving Spoonful, pre-P-Funk band the Parliaments, the Cosmic Rays (a Sun Ra-produced doo wop combo), and Special Pillow are treated with the band’s characteristic warmth and good humor. As a massive Spotify playlist of songs Yo La Tengo has covered suggests, McNew says that the band’s sprawling taste and willingness to dive into covers “comes from who we are” as music fans.
“We just listen to music and think about music all the time, and not just our own,” McNew says. “I think we’ve been that way our whole lives. I think a lot of times it boils down to ‘I have this song stuck in my head, I love this song, what are the chords?’ Sometimes we can hear a song and think that it would translate nicely into our universe. ‘Friday I’m In Love’ is a song both me and Ira thought, ‘Man, I’d love to hear Georgia sing that song, why don’t we do that one?’ Of course Georgia was like ‘That song has too many words in it, it’s too hard to sing.’ But we begged enough to convince her to do it.”
“Once our brains have decided we’re going to do it, things just start popping up, coming into mind, including a whole bunch of songs we had never played or thought of playing,” Kaplan says. “All of the sudden we’re either practicing or thinking about getting together and we’ll think, ‘It’d sound really great if Georgia sang “My Heart’s Not In It”’…we just try out a bunch of [songs] and some stick, some don’t.”
Due to the prominence of acoustic guitar, Zachary Cale’s records have regularly been slotted into the folky category. And while the categorization is not entirely off the mark (the dude can fingerpick with the best of them), it’s only part of the story the Brooklyn-based songwriter is telling. Cale’s work has always been cannily crafted in the studio, as he finds interesting and alluring ways to present his songs.
His latest LP, the stellar Duskland, sees Cale indulging a bit more in widescreen production techniques, expanding the scope of the sonic landscape a bit, calling to mind the atmospheric textures Daniel Lanois brought to Dylan in the late 80s on tunes like “Series of Dreams” and “Most of the Time.” And yet Cale doesn’t lose the intimacy and warmth that made his previous records such a pleasure. An impressive feat.
Of course, impressive production techniques won’t save bad tunes. No worries — there’s not a clunker to be found on the album, from the pensive, reverb-drenched opener “Sundowner” to the spacey and gorgeous “Evensong,” which beats Kurt Vile at his own game. We’ve certainly dug Cale’s stuff in the past, but Duskland might just be his best effort yet. words / t wilcox
The recent inclusion of “You’re Dead” via last year’s What We Do In The Shadows has risen the profile of Norma Tanega’s 1966 debut (Walkin’ My Cat Named Dog) of late. And while the album was never digitized in the CD era, vinyl copies are still readily available. Pick it up.
Moving on: now where is that rumored “lost” album Tanega cut with Dusty Springfield?
In 1969, John Mayall was looking to put the Bluesbreakers to rest. Gravitating towards the scene out in LA (his last album had been titled Blues from Laurel Canyon), Mayall was looking for a sound that was less amp-ed up, less quintessentially ‘blues-rock’. The sound that he minted on The Turning Point, recorded live at the Fillmore East, was therefore rootsier, gentler, more acoustic. Shockingly drummer-less, these extended jams veered away from rock and towards a folk-jazz not a million miles from Astral Weeks. Key to this reinvention were two musicians: saxophonist and flautist Johnny Almond, whom Mayall wrangled following session work with the likes of Fleetwood Mac and Chicken Shack, and acoustic guitarist Jon Mark, whom he recruited from Marianne Faithfull’s touring band. Not to minimize Mayall’s abilities as a performer and an arranger, but it’s undeniably the interplay between these two musicians that give each song their floaty, hypnotic character. Mayall’s choice was almost too good; like Clapton, like John McVie, like Mick Taylor, these were musicians you could hear graduating on the album they had been enlisted to record.
Following the release of Mayall’s Empty Rooms album that same year, the two were already striking out on their own, now as the unfortunately named Mark-Almond (forever cursed to be misfiled under ‘Soft Cell’ in record stores everywhere). Although Mayall himself would gradually reincorporate the electric blues he was known for, Mark-Almond pretty much stuck to the smoky, nite-club grooves they had laid down on The Turning Point. Listen, for instance, to ‘The City’, from their eponymous debut (1971).
Mark-Almond :: The City (1971 version)
Jon Mark’s luscious vocal is pitched somewhere between Colin Blunstone and Jimmie Spheeris. Gone is the bluesy template Mayall was working from, replaced by the hammock swing of a bossa nova chord sequence. However, the smooth vibes are still very much the same: an airy folk-jazz that accumulates like weather, like a lazy tide. The album as a whole may represent the funkier, shadowy end of what would later become Soft Rock, but in 1971 where could you turn musically to get this West Coast outside of David Crosby’s If Only I Could Remember My Name? Okay, granted, ‘The City’ doesn’t quite earn its seven and a half minute length, and the vocal harmonies might sound a little like Three Dog Night at cocktail hour, but remind yourself that this was a full year before Can’t Buy a Thrill. Plus the spectacularly rich tone of Johnny Almond’s sax is something rare for a rock album at the time (even counting Traffic); here it has room to move, coming through the mix like a guest vocalist, working its way into the song like Van Morrison might.
The tune later became something of a signature for the band. Between a live album and various solo projects, Mark and Almond recorded it no less than four times. Its last appearance (as far as I know) was on 1978’s Other People’s Rooms. The key difference between the 1971 and the 1978 versions of ‘The City,’ however, is what occurred musically in the interim: Steely Dan, The Hissing of the Summer Lawns, Alan Parsons’ Projects, Rumours-era Mac, Silk Degrees, to note just a little of the cross-pollination you can detect on the later recording. The funk by this point has matured, grown lustier, and far less folky. And this time it does earn its length, driving (windows down) down a coastal highway, more stars than city lights. The perfect song, in other words, for an evening in the dog days of summer. words / dk o’hara
Mark-Almond :: The City (1978 version)
Author Wyndham Wallace charmingly suggests in the beginning pages of his new memoir about his time with Lee Hazlewood that he felt he was “not even shit” on the legendary producer, songwriter, and performer’s shoes upon their initial meeting at the New York Grand Hyatt in 1999. Wallace’s taste for self-deprecation runs through the entire book, but it’s clear that Hazlewood held a much higher estimation than that of Wallace. Over the course of the last eight years of his life, Wallace would become Hazlewood’s business associate, de facto manager, and collaborator. Most of all, Wallace — or “Bubba,” as Lee dubbed him — became Hazlewood’s friend.
Lee, Myself, & I documents their friendship. It’s not a biography of Hazlewood’s decades long career, during which he laid the groundwork for the Arizona recording scene, producing defining music by Duane Eddy and Sanford Clark, rocketed to stardom with Nancy Sinatra, wrote songs recorded by Dean Martin and Frank Sinatra, founded the artistically daring LHI Records label, and inspired a generation of artists including Sonic Youth, Calexico, Lambchop, Lydia Lunch, Nick Cave, Jarvis Cocker, Richard Hawley, Primal Scream, and more. Instead, Wallace’s book focuses on his experiences with Lee. It’s a touching, funny, and warm memoir, reflecting on Wallace’s personal relationship with Hazlewood.
“Well, it hasn’t helped the marketing campaign, it has to be said, but there you go,” Wallace laughs via Skype from the countryside southwest of Berlin, his self-deprecating tone carried over from the book and encouraged by a few recent drinks. “It doesn’t fit in the biography racks and it doesn’t fit in the novel racks, because it’s not fiction. But the nicest comment I’ve seen on Twitter actually was ‘This is the best non-fiction music book I’ve read all year.’ It’s a small category there.”
But the idea of writing a history of Hazlewood didn’t interest Wallace. “The idea of writing a biography rarely crossed my mind, because it was so hard to get facts out of Lee,” Wallace explains, but even deeper than that, he didn’t want to undo the alluring spell cast by Hazlewood’s songs, the “sexual mysticism and fatalistic humor” described by comedian and writer Stewart Lee in the book’s introduction. “I haven’t destroyed the mystique of Lee,” Wallace says. “I’ve told stories of his life and I’ve revealed an intimate side of him, but I haven’t provided hard cold facts from his birth to his death.”
Wallace instead chooses to focus on his emotional connection to his songs. As a writer for BBC Music, The Guardian, Quietus, and other publications, Wallace is drawn to a personal writing style, forgoing the attempted objective detachment so prevalent in music writing.
“One of the things I find very frustrating about writing about music is that you are supposed to keep up this pretense of being somehow separate from it,” Wallace says. Writing evocatively about his first experience with the music of Lee Hazlewood – stoned at a friends’ place, naturally – Wallace taps into the spirit of music fandom, evoking the memories of falling in love, being wowed by the sounds floating from the stereo. Even as he meets his hero and begins to work with him, Wallace never loses touch with that initial sense of wonder. It carries through the book, a gentle undercurrent of disbelief, which of course, Wallace addresses by laughing at himself.
“I felt like I was going to be caught at any moment, that Lee would just let me go,” Wallace says. “He might hand me $100 in a casino and say ‘I’m going off to the bathroom’ and he just never comes back.”
Hazlewood never shook Wallace, and Wallace in turn helped nurture Lee’s later career, helping oversee For Every Solution There Is A Problem, a tribute album, Total Lee: The Songs Of Lee Hazlewood, and his final full length, Cake Or Death. Along with key reissues by Steve Shelley of Sonic Youth on his Smells Like Records imprint, Wallace helped share the gospel of Lee — and he’s continued to do so, working with Light in the Attic on its current reissue campaign. Then, near the end of his life, Wallace actually crafted a song for Hazlewood, “Hili (At The Top Of The World),” featuring Wallace’s words recited by by Lee over the sounds of Icelandic band amiina. The song serves as a tender coda to their time together.
Wallace offers a look into Lee’s life — memories from his storied past, his sour humor, his time with his third wife, Jeanne, and his family. You meet these people through Wallace’s eyes, and you experience Lee’s music through his ears. To this day, when he speaks of his friend and father figure, Wallace still sounds, more than anything, like a fan. And he’s not afraid to indulge in an extended metaphor to explain his affection for the sounds of Lee.
“One of the weirdest things I do every year is I take two or three media to a small island on the edge of the Arctic Circle in Norway,” Wallace says, of a remote excursion he organizes for writers. It’s an involved trek, he explains, involving a flying into Oslo, then Bodø, then a “four or five hour boat ride” from there. “There’s this magical thing where these people get on the boat ride and they start to get excited, after about the first thirty minutes, because the scenery you sail along the Norwegian coast is amazing. They all look at me and say, ‘God I see why you wanted me to come here.’ And I get to say to them, ‘Naw, this is nothing.’ Then we go another hour, another hour, another hour and a half and they see Norway’s second biggest glacier, and they’re like ‘Holy shit, this incredible, Wyndham!” And I say, ‘No, no, you still haven’t seen anything.’”
Finally, on the island of Husøy, after they’ve experienced the midnight sun, had a few beers, and dined on whale carpaccio – after they’ve been forced to “reassess their entire thoughts about the food chain” – Wallace says they fully get it. “That’s what to me the love of Lee Hazlewood is like. You get somebody’s attention by playing them a Lee Hazlewood song sometime, and they’ll say ‘Fuck me…this is incredible.’” And then you take them deeper into his discography. “‘Yeah yeah, but you haven’t heard anything yet,’ then you play them something else, and they go ‘Whoa.’ Then you play them something like ‘Soul’s Island’ from a A House Safe For Tigers. That, for me, is the pleasure of introducing someone to Lee.”
With Lee, Myself, and I, Wallace introduces a side of Lee Hazlewood found beyond the grooves of his records. A man every bit as quizzical and unique, but one made of flesh and blood, and then, through Wallace’s elegiac words, you get to say goodbye to him. words / j woodbury